People

Karon Wright

Founding Artistic and Executive Director
Karon has been the driving force behind Samling from its inception in 1996, initiating and developing projects, and raising the funding to underpin the charity’s programme. A graduate in English Language and Literature, she has worked as a teacher and a journalist. Music has always played a significant part in her life, particularly singing, together with a commitment to young people and education.

Claire Morley

General Manager
Claire joined Samling in January 2017. With nearly ten years’ experience working in arts administration, she has held positions in marketing and communications, artistic programming and general management for various arts organisations, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canadian Opera Company, and SweetWater Music Festival. A professional choral singer, she also sang with the Elmer Iseler Singers for nine years. She studied English at the University of Toronto and is an avid cyclist and runner.

Peter Keenan

Creative Development Manager
Peter joined Samling in November 2016. He studied composition, piano and viola at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh before reading music at the University of York. He is founder and Music Director of Opera dei Lumi, an opera company specialising in music of the Enlightenment. In addition to his activities as a conductor, Peter has undertaken a postgraduate research degree at the University of Glasgow, where his study focuses on tempo markings and proportion in Mozart’s operas. In his spare time Peter enjoys cycling and climbing munros.

Heather Anderson

Secretary
Heather trained as an accounts clerk and has been working with Samling part-time as its secretary since 2003. She particularly enjoys the regular contact with our young artists and the varied nature of the work. In her spare time she enjoys playing badminton, walking and gardening.

Adrian Gifford

Chairman
After graduating as an engineer from St Andrews University, Adrian worked for several years for Anglo American in South Africa in the deep gold mines, and for De Beers on the Namibian skeleton coast diamond field. On returning to the UK he qualified as a solicitor and became a partner with Dickinson Dees in Newcastle. In 2006 he retired as a senior partner, and helped to set up Headline Pictures Ltd, of which he is now Chairman. He is Chairman of Samling and a Trustee of a number of charitable trusts.

Christopher Robson

Treasurer
Chris became a partner in the independent firm of Chartered Accountants, Ryecroft Glenton, in 1984 where he is Managing Partner. He is a qualified independent financial adviser (IFA). He acts for a number of larger business clients and has particular expertise in advising those in the service sector. Chris is a board member at the Port of Tyne Authority where he is also a member of the Finance Committee and Trustee of the pension fund. He served as a Trustee of the North Shields YMCA and MEA House Trust before becoming a Trustee of Samling.

Roger McKechnie

Trustee 
Following a degree from Newcastle University, Roger had a successful business career in marketing. At the age of 40 he started up, developed and then sold the innovative Phileas Fogg snacks company. After Phileas Fogg he established The Samling at Dovenest as an exclusive boutique hideaway hotel on Lake Windermere. Following its sale in 1999 he founded The Tanfield Food Company, which is currently changing the rules of the ready meal industry. Roger was the founding Chairman of Samling.

Robert Bowman OBE

Trustee
Bob trained as a pharmacist and after National Service with the RAF returned to Carlisle to run the family pharmacy chain. In his spare time he trained as a singer under the distinguished English soprano Ena Mitchell and has undertaken many recitals. Another of his passions is cricket, which he played at County level for Cumberland and he is now Patron of Cumberland County Cricket Club and President and Patron of Carlisle Cricket Club. He is Chairman of Carlisle and District Music and Drama Festival and President of several local choirs. He retired from pharmacy in 2007.

Bryan K. Sanderson CBE

Trustee
Managing Director, BP (1992-2000), Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank (2003-2006), Bupa (2001-2006), Learning Skills Council (2001-2004) and Sunderland Area Regeneration Company (2002-2009). Currently a director of Durham County Cricket Club, Chairman, Florence Nightingale Foundation, Chairman, Home Renaissance Foundation, Trustee of The Economist and Emeritus Governor of the London School of Economics.  Educ. London School of Economics and the IMEDE Business School in Lausanne.  Awarded Hon. DBA Sunderland University 1998 and York 1999. Interests: opera, ballet, football (former Chairman of Sunderland plc).

Dr Tony Trapp MBE DL FREng

Trustee
Tony came to Newcastle University and completed a BSC and then a PhD in engineering. This was followed by five years as a lecturer at Edinburgh University. He then returned to Newcastle University and became an owner-director of SMD and helped to develop the business for 18 years. He then established The Engineering Business and eventually sold it to IHC Merwede, a Dutch shipbuilder, in 2008. In 2010 Tony established OSBIT Power with two colleagues and is building this business with a team of gifted engineers. Tony was David Goldman Visiting Professor at Newcastle University 2008-2010 and was awarded an Honorary Degree in Civil Law from Northumbria University in 2008. He was NE Business Executive of the year 2008. Tony is a Deputy Lieutenant of Northumberland and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.